A handful of first team players got minutes under their belts Wednesday as Atlanta United 2 let a first half lead slip to lose to Memphis 901 2-1.
Brandon Vazquez, Luiz Fernando, Kevin Kratz, Mikey Ambrose and Mo Adams were among the starters and George Bello came off the bench at the hour mark in the loss.
“It’s great that we can play some of Academy players with someone like Kevin Kratz,” said Atlanta United 2 manager Stephen Glass after the game. “It gives those guys an opportunity to see what a professional looks like on the pitch. Hopefully, it inspires them to play at the first team level.
“That’s the biggest factor for our players, we are trying to prepare them for that first team level. Obviously the first team staff come and watch the games and see how guys perform, and whether that’s relative to the first team or not. I think our guys get opportunities. Whether they grasp it or not, is another matter. But the opportunities will keep coming, because of the good system we have in place.”
As far at the game goes, let Jack Metcalf — the team’s goalscorer on the night — explain:
“We were very good in spells, and I think we dominated in large spells of the game. I think in the first half we were good,” said Metcalf, whose goal from the penalty spot was the first of his professional career. “We moved the ball well, we created chances. Second half, naturally being a goal up they started to add a bit of pressure and I think with us playing on the weekend we were feeling it a little bit.”
Atlanta was awarded a penalty in the 36th minute after Luiz Fernando drew a foul inside the area. While Vazquez looked set to take the PK as the team’s starting striker, Metcalf explained how he convinced the former U.S. youth international to let him take it.
“Brandon is clinical. He’s one of the best finishers I’ve ever played with,” said Metcalf. “But for some reason I just felt like I was striking the ball clean in the game. I was practicing yesterday and the day before and I had scored a couple and felt like, ‘you know what? I’m going to step up and take it,’ and luckily it went in.”
Lagos Kunga made a return to Atlanta as USL rules and his loan agreement allow him to participate against his parent club. Kunga has not been a consistent starter for Memphis since joining the club, but got 60 minutes of action in his start Wednesday night.
“We watch their games all the time, so we see how Lagos is progressing,” said Glass. “I think we did a good job of shutting him down. He’s obviously a dangerous player going forward. He looks to me like he is progressing well, so we will see how that continues.”
Atlanta United 2 (5-15-5, 20 points) returns to action Wednesday, Sept. 4 against Birmingham Legion FC at 7:30 p.m. EST at Fifth Third Bank Stadium. The match will be streamed live on ESPN+.